How many Hollywood films you have watched with a dysfunctional family and its reunions at the core of the story? Homo err…sorry Home for the Holidays, Little Miss Sunshine, Margot at the Wedding, Rachel Getting Married, and even The Godfather Trilogy. I think the Tenenbaums of The Royal Tenenbaums are clearly the winners in terms of degree of dysfunctionality. Here in Kapoor & Sons since 1921, we have the Kapoor family that has not gone to the extent of being dysfunctional. This Indian Punjabi family starts as a sweet nice family with the grandfather (Rishi Kapoor), Father (Rajat Kapoor), Mother (Ratna Pathak Shah) and two sons Rahul (Fawad Khan) and Arjun (Sidharth Malhotra) in a small town. The complete Kapoor & Sons also includes grandfather Kapoor’s second son and his family but their part in the story is inconsequential. The story which seems to be a simple straight equation starts to incorporate more variables with the introduction of Tia (Alia Bhatt) a free-spirited rich and orphan girl (like always)in the lives of these two brothers. Grandfather Kapoor’s heart attack brings the family under one roof after five years.
All this seems OK. So, now this is the time to introduce some chaos. No points for guessing this much
is predictable. Rahul is a successful writer and entrepreneur but Arjun is a struggling writer, not even a graduate and according to his family more than his struggle, he likes to juggle. By the way, this is a modern Punjabi family didn’t I tell you? Father and son and grandfather share drinks and cigarettes and are quite frank with each other on every topic. The grand old man shows flashes of perversion in order to be funny. The brothers have issues between them. Arjun believes Rahul stole his idea and wrote the book that became a bestseller, mother suspects his husband is having an extra-marital affair and to add to this chaos Arjun comes to know that his brother once kissed Tia when they were drunk. Rahul has his own secrets. There are so many elements introduced all of a sudden that last hour of the film becomes The Book of Revelations. Everyone has something to contribute except for the grandfather. He is happy watching porn on his iPad.
The director, Shakun Batra, must be applauded for proving that a real film can be made with not so real actors if the characters are real. He has done a good job and so has the writer, Shakun Batra, again? Great coincidence, two people of the same name working on the same project. Or, maybe they are the same. This is more convenient. Yes. A writer’s job here is the most important because writing the screenplay with just day-to-day conversations between groups of people is a tougher task. Hats off to him. With these flawed characters, he has successfully imposed a sense of reality in the setup. People with flaws or more accurately, humanly flaws always seem real. These characters are very ordinary from the real world, their feelings are real their fears are real and their problems are real. I am giving full marks to the writer for creating such a family in the Indian context.
This brings us to the performances now. I am not a great admirer of any of the works of these actors except Rajat Kapoor and he has kept his promise. He is brilliant as the father and the husband. It seems nowadays he has stopped acting and has started living his character. Ratna Pathak Shah doesn’t go overboard and has given a superb performance. She is very lovely as the mother. Rishi Kapoor actually has nothing to do in this film. They could have used only his name instead. The comic relief that he provides is embarrassing and not funny at all. Fawad Khan is a born natural. He is effortless and very convincing and brave too. Sidharth Malhotra, I don’t like him since the day someone said that he resembles a young Amitabh Bachchan and I wanted to slap that man whoever he was. But I can’t lie here. It would be unethical. He was very good in this film and has acted well. For Alia Bhatt, I think this must have been a cake walk. She is good. Songs are garbage whatever anybody says. They are pathetic. And in this kind of story, one melodious emotional song with soul-searching lyrics could have done magic.
Somewhere I talked about the Indian context. Now, this is the problem here with Kapoor & Sons. The average English Movie watching audience would find nothing new in it. And the part of the audience that doesn’t watch English movies would take this premise as unreal. The director has tried to blend this Hollywood style dysfunctional family into the Indian context but has not succeeded fully. The attempt is brave and he must get his share of praises and awards, but, I think this is not going to work because worst nightmare for an Indian is the acceptance that a dysfunctional and shattered family can be his own family.